Written by: Alex Green
“Be like the sun for grace and mercy,” Rumi once wrote. The Persian poet may have been gone long before Jimmer Podrasky picked up a guitar, but given the grace and mercy of the singer/songwriter’s work, it’s hard to not think he would have overwhelmingly approved.
Podrasky’s second solo album is called God Like The Sun and it’s a further affirmation that the Rave-Ups’ frontman is one of the most important American singer/songwriters around. The Pennsylvania-born musician’s tuneful songbook has always been brimming with intelligence and heart and the ten numbers on his new record only add more gold to an already luminescent musical legacy.
Podrasky’s work has always been rife with humor, heartbreak, humanity and the kind of punful inventiveness that’s as much Cole Porter as it is John Prine. The characters in his songs are dreamers, romantics, skeptics and optimists and they seem as shocked as anyone at the lives they’re living. But unlike Springsteen’s subjects, who want to rocket out of town in a blaze of exhaust and exhilaration, Podrasky’s characters want to make sense of that town–live in it, breathe in it and feel at home in it.
Because if you can’t do that in the town you’re in, you sure as hell can’t do that in the town you’re running to.
The follow-up to his winning solo debut The Would-Be Plans, God Like The Sun is a shimmering collection of swaggering roots-filled rock (“Rollercoaster USA,” “Like Money Spent”) , hook-filled pop (“Your Heaven Or Mine”) and stone-cold acoustic stunners (“Shoot The Moon”). Meanwhile, “Grandma’s Song” is a moving blast of soul and the title track is, quite simply, one of the greatest album closers of all time. And let’s not forget the playful and unexpectedly moving “You Can Count On Me.” Accompanied by the always delightful Syd Straw, the two trade barbs and complaints about each other, but in the end they both admit, “You’re about to do it again to me.” In other words, the complaints also register as endearments and the song suggests they need to be both to keep love interesting and alive.
Podrasky’s songs feature the kind of interior emotional wrestling that keeps us up at night wondering if we’re good friends, fathers and husbands and that our frailties aren’t bringing down the people that rely on us the most. But God Like The Sun is not an album of stark, self-flagellation—it’s an honest and joyous look inward while living outward, out there in the world. In other words, Podrasky is comfortable bringing the private to the public and what results is discovery, revelation and redemption. Keeping this in mind, nobody but Jimmer could write a number like the punchy “Half A Dad,” which may very well be the best pop song ever written about partial custody.
“I’m shaking and scared of life and of the absence of life,” the poet Charlie Smith wrote in the closing piece of his book The Palms. It’s an unflinching admission, but not one that hobbles him because in spite of this he goes on to say, “I’m pulling the curtain, I’m letting light fill the room.”
God Like The Sun is all about pulling those curtains and Podrasky pulls them with such strength and zeal, these songs could fill a thousand rooms with blinding, gilded beauty.